Miltary Police

What are military police?

Definition and Purpose

The military police (MP) are the law enforcement officers of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their primary purpose is to maintain security, discipline, and order within the military installations and enforce laws on military property, such as bases and camps.

Branches of Military Police

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its own dedicated law enforcement division:

  • Army: Military Police Corps
  • Air Force: U.S. Air Force Security Forces
  • Navy: Masters At Arms
  • Marine Corps: Provost’s Marshal’s Office

Roles and Responsibilities

Law Enforcement on Military Installations

Within military installations, the military police are responsible for enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) as well as applicable federal, state, and local laws. Their jurisdiction extends to all military personnel and civilians present on the premises.

Combat Operations and Wartime Duties

During combat operations or in war zones, the roles of military police expand significantly. They are tasked with protecting supply routes, conducting reconnaissance missions, detaining soldiers who have disobeyed orders or deserted, and supporting overall combat operations.

Jurisdiction and Authority

The military police’s authority is limited to military personnel and property, except during situations of martial law or when assisting civilian law enforcement agencies. They are expressly prohibited from enforcing civilian laws under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, with some exceptions like the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard.

Training and Recruitment

Requirements for Joining Military Police

Both men and women can join the military with the intention of becoming part of the law enforcement team. Each branch has specific requirements for recruitment, such as physical fitness standards, educational qualifications, and background checks.

Training Programs by Branch

Once recruited, prospective military police officers undergo extensive training tailored to their respective branch. This training covers various aspects of law enforcement, including weapons handling, defensive tactics, investigations, and military law.

Uniforms and Equipment

Distinctive Uniforms

Each branch of the military police has a distinctive uniform that sets them apart from other military personnel. These uniforms are designed to be functional and professional, reflecting the law enforcement duties of the military police.

Standard and Combat Equipment

In non-combat situations, military police officers typically carry standard-issue handguns, such as the M9 pistol. However, in combat zones or high-risk environments, they may be equipped with additional weapons like the M4 carbine, M203 grenade launcher, and 12-gauge shotguns.

Civilian Law Enforcement and DOD Police

In addition to the military police, each branch also has civilian police departments known as the Department of Defense (DOD) police. These uniformed law enforcement officers are responsible for enforcing the UCMJ, as well as state, local, and federal laws within their respective military installations.

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The military police play a crucial role in maintaining order, discipline, and security within the U.S. Armed Forces. From law enforcement on military installations to supporting combat operations, their responsibilities are diverse and essential to the functioning of the military. With specialized training and distinct uniforms, the military police uphold the rule of law and ensure the safety of military personnel and property.


Can military police arrest civilians? 

Generally, military police do not have the authority to arrest civilians unless martial law has been declared or they are assisting civilian law enforcement agencies. Their jurisdiction is limited to military personnel and property.

Do military police carry firearms at all times? 

The firearms and equipment carried by military police officers depend on the situation and environment. On military installations, they typically carry standard-issue handguns, while in combat zones or high-risk areas, they may be equipped with additional weapons like rifles and shotguns.

What is the difference between military police and civilian police?

While both military police and civilian police are law enforcement officers, military police operate within the military jurisdiction and enforce the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and applicable laws on military property. Civilian police, on the other hand, enforce state and federal laws among the general public.

What are the different ranks and divisions within the military police? 

Each branch of the military police has its own rank structure and divisions with responsibilities in various areas of law enforcement. These divisions may include patrol, investigations, traffic enforcement, and specialized units like K-9 or SWAT teams.

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